By Neide Solimões – Sintsep-pa General Coordinatrion and Luta Socialista/PSOL leadership
Some people believe the indigenous genocide in Brazil only took place during the European invasion in the 1500s. In fact, it was at that time that the greatest slaughter and enslavement of indigenous people took place, in addition to the invasion of their lands, pushing the survivors of the Brazilian coast towards the center of the existing forests. Many indigenous peoples became extinct at that time. In the 521 years that followed, there was no respite. All governments, in one way or another, to a greater or lesser extent, have contributed to the reduction and even extinction of many indigenous peoples during this time.
The invasion of indigenous lands by landowners, cattle breeders, ranchers and loggers, with no limitations by the Brazilian government, the Ministry of the Environment or the FUNAI, reduced the geographic space for their subsistence agriculture, the collection of materials for their crafts and ritual clothing, and even for their natural wandering or to locate their villages and houses for new couples and their families. The construction of roads across their lands during the military governments and the New Republic, such as the Trans-Amazonian Highway among many others, made possible the entry of invaders with the most diverse objectives. The construction of hydroelectric dams, such as Belo Monte, already during the PT governments, which diverted the Xingu River, dried up part of the streams that bathed their lands or flooded part of their territories, expelling them to Altamira or other neighboring cities where, without work and without the protection of the FUNAI, were subjected to prejudice, discrimination and diseases of the “whites”, and survive on the charity of others.
As if all that were not enough, under the genocidal government of Bolsonaro, who made clear his rejection of indigenous peoples in his electoral campaign when he said loud and clear that in his government he would not trace an inch of indigenous land, the attack on those peoples has become even more evident. In the first place, the FUNAI was handed over to the Bolsonaristas who are enemies of the native peoples, because they hate their culture, their rituals and their beliefs. They want to “civilize” them at all costs, based on the norms, morals, beliefs and rules of Western civilization. But that is not all. Bolsonaro’s government, through his Minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, has made gestures to legalize the felling of hundreds of trees on indigenous lands, by his logging friends, mortal enemies of the native peoples. He had the nerve to come from Brasilia to Pará, only to disavow the seizure, by the Federal Police of Amazonas and Pará, of tons of timber extracted from indigenous areas.
Lately, we have observed with astonishment, the advance of illegal mining in the Munduruku areas in Pará and Yanomami in Roraima. Mining in indigenous areas is publicly defended by Bolsonaro: “It is my intention to regulate mining, even for Indians. They should have the right to explore mining on their own property, the indigenous land is as if it were their property,” he declared. An minority of natives is seduced by those who practice illegal mining, armed to the teeth and use heavy equipment, to allow them to enter those lands, which is forbidden by law. Most of the leaders state that they do not want the presence of mining companies on their lands because mining only produces destruction and death. The equipment used to dredge the rivers where they look for gold, in addition to leaving large holes in the banks, turns the rivers into mud. The mercury used to amalgamate the gold and separate it from the tailings contaminates the water of the rivers and the fish that will be consumed by the indigenous people, making them sick with skin problems and intoxication, which incapacitates them for their activities and in some cases can end in death. There are reports that some children are born contaminated by mercury in areas where mining is intense.
However, in recent weeks there have been reports of an upsurge in illegal mining activities in the Munduruku and Yanomami areas, with the use of violence against indigenous people who oppose mining. The house of the Mundurukus Indigenous Women’s Association, in Jacareacanga, Pará, who campaign against illegal mining on their lands, was invaded, ransacked and set on fire. Mundurukus women who were with their children in a boat were forcibly removed and threatened by the miners with the help of the indigenous people they recruited. In the Yanomami area, illegal miners sped past indigenous villages, randomly shooting at women and children. The Yanomami warriors tried to arm themselves with their bows and arrows in the hope of defending their people. We know that if there is a confrontation, it will be carnage, because the miners are well armed, with plenty of ammunition, as Fantástico’s report on the Globo network showed last Sunday.
Bolsonaro’s genocidal government, his Minister of Environment, the presidents of Ibama, ICMBio and Funai, will do nothing to contain illegal mining, because they support and protect these criminals. In the 21st century, will we see a repeat of the events of the 16th century? We will not allow this to happen. The Brazilian government has already been sued in an International Court for the crime of genocide of indigenous peoples. We must support the entire agenda of struggles of the native peoples and their demands.
Demarcation of indigenous lands, now!
No mining companies on indigenous lands! No to PL 191!
End the deforestation of the Amazon.
Against the genocide of indigenous peoples
Out Bolsonaro, Mourão and all his henchmen!